Cause and Effect of Obesity
The cause and effect of obesity are not as straightforward as you may think.
Causes of obesity are often out of your control, and its effects range from discreet to life-changing...
Many “experts” blame obesity on lack of willpower, inappropriate diet and not enough exercise. But the causes of obesity are much more complicated than that and are often out of the obese individual’s control. Obesity causes fall into three categories:
- Under your direct control
See our Causes of Obesity page for the details.
Obesity has a very broad impact. Some of its consequences are relatively discreet, while others are much more apparent…
- Less obvious effects of obesity
- Obesity health problems
- Obesity discrimination
- Fertility and pregnancy issues
Many of the less obvious effects of obesity slowly and quietly infiltrate our everyday lives. Although they don’t seem to be a big issue on a standalone basis, they can lead to much more serious problems.
For example, one study found an increase in body mass index to be directly correlated with decreased seat belt use in people over 24 years of age.1 Not wearing a seat belt won’t effect the obese person on a day to day basis. But if an accident is had while not wearing one, the risk of serious injury goes up by 50% and the risk of a fatality goes up 60 to 70%.2
Another study determined that an obese person’s romantic partner was much more likely to become obese.3 Again, as the partner slowly gains weight from week to week, there are no glaring effects outside of the weight gain itself. But as the partner’s weight goes up, they gradually become subject to the same more serious effects of obesity, including health problems, discrimination and fertility and pregnancy issues.
Obesity health problems are the second leading cause of preventable deaths and can drastically reduce an obese individual’s quality of life. While a person’s actual weight is certainly a strong predictor of risk, where the weight is distributed throughout the body may be more important.
See our Obesity Health Problems page to learn all of the health risks associated with obesity, whether you are at risk and the three weight loss treatment and prevention options.
Weight discrimination is another significant effect of obesity. In addition to leading to emotional problems such as low self esteem and depression, obesity also has a measurable impact on other areas of our lives including work, school and even the doctor’s office.
Our Obesity Discrimination page dives into four of the biggest areas of discrimination against obese people, along with effective ways to deal with each type.
Fertility and pregnancy problems are also more likely to plague obese people than those of normal weight.4,5 Problems range from less severe such as anovulation and a higher risk of headaches and heartburn during pregnancy to much more serious pregnancy-related health problems including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and even intrauterine death.
Babies of obese moms are also more likely to have health troubles such as spina bifida and heart defects.
See our Obese and Pregnant (Pregnancy After Weight Loss Surgery) page for more information.
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- Schlundt DG, et al. BMI and Seatbelt Use. Obesity (2007) 15, 2541–2545; doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.303
- Safety Belt Statistics. James Madison University Office of Public Safety. Oct 2004. Available at: http://www.jmu.edu/safetyplan/vehicle/generaldriver/safetybelt.shtml
- Natalie S. Entry Into Romantic Partnership Is Associated With Obesity. Obesity aop, (2009) | doi:10.1038/oby.2009.97.
- The Endocrine Society Press Release: Obesity linked to problems that can cause male infertility. Available at: http://www.endo-society.org/media/ENDO-07/research/ Obesity-linked-to-problems-that-can-cause-male-infertility.cfm. Accessed: October 6, 2009.
- Obesity and infertility. Mandakini Parihar. Reviews in Gynaecological Practice - September 2003 (Vol. 3, Issue 3, Pages 120-126, DOI: 10.1016/ 1471-7697(03 00061-3)
[Last editorial review/modification of this page: 12/28/2011]